Johnson attributed some of Gonzalez’s issues with a lack of command of his secondary pitches to the conditions. It was a cool (by Florida standards) and breezy day in Jupiter today, leaving Gonzalez’s hands dry and the ball a little slick.
“He really didn’t have a good feel for the ball because it was a little chilly,” Johnson said. “All the balls felt a little slick to him, so he didn’t mix in hardly any breaking balls until I think the last hitter. But I thought he threw the ball well. That’s a good-hitting ballclub, so he got his work in. And he threw (52) pitches. I’ll probably keep him probably a little more than 50 next time out and he’ll be ready for (March 12) for his start in the WBC.”
Johnson doesn’t see anything specific that he’d like Gonzalez to work on before joining Team USA for the WBC; he mainly just wants his lefty to continue getting his work in and building up arm strength.
“He’s in a real good place right now,” Johnson said. “He’s feeling good and it’s (the) second time out. No problem getting loose, he was pretty consistent with his stuff. He was missing a little because the ball was a little slippery. Normally that’s a whole lot of pitches for him, he usually has a real low pitch count, but I think he’s going to have one more time out. Hopefully it’ll be a little warmer, and it should be a good tune-up for the WBC.”
The Nationals slugged three home runs today - a two-run shot to dead center from Anthony Rendon and solo shots to right by Ian Desmond and Chris Marrero. Playing without Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche - who are all expected to start tomorrow at Space Coast Stadium against the Cardinals - the Nats weren’t lacking for power.
“We hit the ball hard,” Johnson said. “Now we’ve got the regulars coming in. They’ve got something to live up to.”
Rendon’s shot was the hardest-hit of the bunch. It bounced about two-thirds of the way up the batter’s eye in center. The 22-year-old infielder added a double today, as well, and is now batting .438 on the spring.
“He’s just an impressive player, whether in the field or at the plate,” Johnson said. “He’s got a good, quick bat, good feel for the strike zone, doesn’t really chase a lot. He just needs to go play.”
With the regulars getting back in the lineup a bit more starting tomorrow, that’ll mean less time for Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi, but Johnson is happy with what he’s seen from those two during this recent stretch, where they’ve gotten lots of at-bats. Moore is batting .273 and Lombardozzi is at .182, after both went 0-for-3 today.
“I really like where Moore’s at and Lombo is getting a little more aggressive,” Johnson said. “He played a whole lot last year and he saw a lot of pitches. Very patient. He’s getting a little more aggressive. He’s actually swinging the bat better than I thought he did last year. His average is not showing it but he’s being a little more aggressive and driving the ball better. I like where he’s at.”
Ryan Perry only had enough gas to work 1 2/3 innings his last time out, but the reliever-turned-starter, who said he’s been battling a bit of a dead-arm period, went a full three frames today, allowing no runs on two hits.
“He looked a lot better, threw the ball good,” Johnson said. “Keeping it down, he looked like he was enjoying it out there. That was good. He didn’t throw that many pitches, I think maybe 30 pitches in three innings of work.”
Drew Storen looked dominant early in the eighth inning today, striking out the first two hitters he faced, only to then load the bases with two singles and a walk. He pitched out of trouble by getting a popout to third.
“Drew’s being a little overly analytical and a little deliberate,” Johnson said. “It’s early in the spring, he’s just trying to get comfortable. ... I think he’s from Stanford or something. He knows what he’s working on and what he’s trying to do. He’s got an assortment of stuff, more than anything, it’s just getting a little feel, getting his arm strength up.”
Update: Nationals outfielder Eury Perez has been added to the Dominican Republic’s roster for the World Baseball Classic, according to the team’s Twitter account.
Perez will take the place of Melky Mesa, an outfielder in the Yankees’ system, who withdrew from the WBC. Perez is batting .348 and has two stolen bases so far this spring.
Perez joining the Dominican Republic team gives Nationals four players on their 40-man roster who will be participating in the WBC. Gonzalez and left-hander Ross Detwiler will both pitch for Team USA, while outfielder Roger Bernadina is playing for the Netherlands.
With Bernadina and Perez both leaving camp, Johnson will now be relying more heavily on Moore and Corey Brown to back up his starting outfield trio of Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth.